Home hero Rafa Cabrera Bello hoping to shine in Gran Canaria

Having already seen one golfing dream come true on home soil by getting to watch Seve Ballesteros play for the first time in Gran Canaria, Rafa Cabrera Bello is now experiencing another pinch himself moment in the sport as a tournament host on the island.

Tournament host Rafa Cabrera Bello poses for a portrait ahead of the Gran Canaria Lopesan Open at Meloneras Golf Club. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images.

This week’s Gran Canaria Lopesan Open, which is taking place at Meloneras Golf, marks the European Tour’s return to the island for the first time since 2002, with Las Palmas-born Cabrera Bello excited to be hosting his peers.

“It is a really cool experience,” said the 2017 Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open champion, who is joining the likes of Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie as tournament hosts on the circuit in recent seasons.

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“As a kid, you don’t really grow up dreaming about being a tournament host but, once I had seen all the guys that had that opportunity and huge honour, I thought, ‘yeah, it would be pretty cool to be a tournament host one day’ if we come back to Gran Canaria.

“I am really loving it this week and it’s a huge pleasure. It’s a very nice feeling because obviously when you look back on your career you like to think you have maybe done one or two things right and it is great for me to have the opportunity and honour to be host this week.”

In the build up to the event, which is the first leg of a new Canary Islands Swing – it also includes back-to-back tournaments in Tenerife - the European Tour posted a photograph on social media showing Cabrera Bello and his brother and sister with Ballesteros.

“I remember the tour came twice to Maspalomas for what was called the Turespana Series at the time,” he said of another of the venues on the island. “The first year, 1995, we were watching Seve and he ended up losing by a shot to Jarmo Sandelin.

“I was a little kid and acted as a marshal and, two years later, Ollie [Jose Maria Olazabal] ended up beating Lee Westwood. That was really cool to see your heroes live as a kid. Kids’ dreams are amazing.”

Cabrera Bello climbed to 17th in the world rankings after producing a sensational fairway wood into the green to set up a play-off victory over England’s Callum Shinkwin in that Scottish Open at Dundonald Links four years ago.

The 36-year-old has slipped to 121st on the back of a barren spell, but is hoping to use this week’s event as a springboard to better things, having impressed on his tour debut on the island as a 17-year-old amateur in the 2002 event won by Sergio Garcia.

“Why not?” replied Cabrera Bello to being asked if he could become the first tournament host on the circuit to also enjoy a winning week. “I’m here participating, so I am one of the people who has a chance.

“Last year wasn’t my best year, but this year I have played some events better and I feel my game is coming back.

“I have good knowledge of the course and I have been practising pretty hard lately, so I am confident that I can get back to my best game pretty soon and I am hoping this week could be good for me.”

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